Archive 2002


Building On The Indigenous In Constitution Making

By Professor Bethwell A. Ogot Director, 

Institute Of Research And Postgraduate Studies, Maseno University, Kenya.


At the Constitution Of Kenya Review Commission Seminar On Culture, Ethics 
And Ideology At The Great Rift Lodge. Naivasha. 7th February 2002

In my book entitled Building on the indigenous (Kisumu: Anyange Press, 
1999), I argued in one of the chapters that the structures, institutions 
and values of different societies should be the point of departure of a 
dynamic development instead of regarding them, as we often do, as obstacles 
to development (p. 142). This is the process I referred to as building on 
the indigenous, and it is increasingly being regarded as the necessary 
condition for self-reliant development. It implies that the indigenous 
should determine the form and content of development strategy and should 
ensure that development change accommodates itself to these things, be they 
values, interests, aspirations and social institutions which are important 
in the life of the people. I concluded that it is only when developmental 
change comes to terms with them that it can become sustainable. How can the 
indigenous determine the form and content of the new Kenya Constitution? 
This is the question l intend to address in this talk.

In the public lecture organised by the Constitution of Kenya Review 
Commission at Charter Hall, Nairobi on Friday, 17th August, 2001,1 raised 
the question: "How can identity groups interrelate to a common political 
community at the centre?" I prefaced my answer to that question with the 
following remarks:

"In terms of practical experience, the view that political accommodation of 
groups .... would lead to a break up of the body politic has been 
widespread in Africa. But it should be remembered that the African nation 
was an invention by the nationalists and academics. The State in Africa is 
constituted on classical liberal principles which wrongly deny the moral 
claims of groups. The principles revolve around individuals who are taken 
to be the source of valid moral claims and are viewed as having moral worth 
deserving equal respect. This is the theory which shaped the development of 
the modern state in Western Europe. It was specific to culturally 
homogenous societies which the theorists had in mind. Exported to Africa, 
this liberal theory produced the idea that the State is culturally and 
ethnically blind and hence political developments in Africa were premised 
on the abandonment of primordial loyalties. Political development was 
disconnected from African cultural specifics and increasingly became 
alienating as individuals were stigmatised for exhibiting ethnic loyalty.

However, the classical theory of the political community, which has no 
respect for cultural diversity, is now being revised to recognise that the 
group to which the individual belongs has a moral space which ought to be 
factored into theory. Consequently, the cultures of minority groups have to 
be secured to enable their members to exercise the autonomy and freedom 
which the majority group members take for granted. Rather than lead to the 
dissolution of the polity, practical experience has shown that a 
recognition fosters a sense of belonging and a strong civic bond." 

The rest of this lecture should be regarded as an elaboration of this 
In Kenya, practically all the over forty nationalities are hybrid 
societies. By the end of the nineteenth century, African societies in the 
future Kenya were already all contaminated by each other in a complex, 
interdependent human world. There were no watertight ethnic categories. 
Numerous clans, lineages and sections of clans expanded and contracted, 
gaining and losing members. The migration of segments or absorption by 
other ethnic groups produced considerable complexity. New communities and 
new languages were often the result. A thorough examination of the 
traditions of the different Kenya nationalities reveals a lack of narrow 
cultural nationalism. On the contrary, they stress integration by an ever 
fruitful mingling and migration.

The researches of Professor Gideon S. Were on western Kenya have revealed, 
for instance, that between thirty and forty per cent of the Baluyia clans 
were originally Kalenjin: the Abatachoni, large sections of the Babukusu, 
Abatarichi, etc. Similarly, but to a lesser degree, several Luyia clans 
such as the Abashimuli of Idakho, the Abamuli of Bunyore, the Abashisa, 
Abamani and Abakhobe of Kisa, and the Banyala of Bunyala, are of Maasai 

In Central Kenya, for instance, the Kikuyu who regarded Muranga as their 
heartland had been expanding northwards into Nyeri and southwards into 
Kiambu throughout the nineteenth century. They completely absorbed the 
indigenous people such as the Gumba and the Athi and proceeded to forge 
extensive trade, cultural and family relations with the neighbouring Maasai 
both in the North where they interacted with the Purko and the remnants of 
the Laikipiak Maasai in the Nyeri plains, as well as in the south where 
they established extensive contacts with the Maasai of the Kaputie plains, 
in his authoritative work, A History of the Kikuyu, 1500 —1900, Godfrey 
Muriuki has portrayed vividly the intimate relations that existed between 
the Kikuyu and the Maasai in Mathira, Tetu and Kabete in the 19th century. 
One important feature of these contents was the extensive intermarriage 
that was practised between the two groups. Muriuki
estimates that perhaps half or more of the population in Mathira and Tetu 
is of Maasai origin.

In the South, many Maasai groups and individuals took refuge among the 
Kikuyu of Kabete during the times of adversity, 1880-1890. One of them, 
Waiyaki wa Hinga, had even emerged as an eminent Kikuyu leader. Through 
these contacts, Kikuyu language borrowed almost all the words related to 
cattle from the Maasai language. The Kikuyu also borrowed basic religious 
concepts such as Ngai (God from Maasai E'Ngai}, initiation rituals and 
military tactics.

Interdependence and cultural fluidity was even more pronounced along the 
coastal region of Kenya, in the Tana River area, the Pokomo who had settled 
in their present homes towards the end of the 16th century had their 
culture influenced considerably by the Oromo. Today, the Korokoro or the 
Northern Pokomo speak Oromo and Pokomo dialects. Moreover, many Oromo 
groups have been assimilated into Pokomo society. The situation was not any 
different with the other Shungwaya conglomerate: the Mijikenda. Together 
with the Pokomo they arrived from the north and proceeded southwards to 
settle along the Kenya coast in nine villages or Kayas: Kwale (Digo), 
Giriama, Ribe, Jibana, Chonyi, Kambe and later Rabai, Duruma and Kauma, 
which were located on the hilltops of the coastal ridge. They formed the 
Mijikenda or the Nine Kayas’ which has been Swahilised into Mijikenda. 
During the second half of the 19th century, the Mijikenda people moved out 
of their Kayas and evolved into the independent ethnic groups we know today.

But the interdependence did not only exist between the different Kayas: it 
also extended to other groups along the Swahili coast, especially those in 
Mombasa, the Oromo and the hunter-gatherers Waata. Each Kaya had a special 
economic and political relationship with individual Swahili, Oromo and 
Waata communities. Many of these relationships were consolidated through 
intermarriage and blood-brotherhood. The Mijikenda rapidly became the 
middlemen in the trade between the coast and the interior.

The Taveta people of the Kenya coast may be taken as an excellent example 
of nation-building. Their traditional history reveals that refuge groups 
comprising the Pare, Shambaa, Kamba, Taita, Chaga and Arusha fleeing from 
the famines and conflicts of their respective home areas settled in the 
Taveta forests in the 17th century. By the 19th century this heterogeneous 
group had developed a distinctive common culture and evolved land-holding 
clans and central institutions which unified the migrants into a single 
people. There was also widespread intermarriage between the clans and the 
adoption of the Pare language by all these clans which greatly assisted in 
welding them into a cohesive nationality. The role of culture, common 
central institutions, language and intermarriage in nation-building are 
clearly demonstrated in the case of the Taveta. 

When colonial literature later portrays the Taveta as a "tribe" in the 
sense of an exclusive barbaric and static society, it was in effect 
inventing a primitive community whose presumed needs and hopelessness could 
be used to justify colonialism. This picture can be multiplied across the 
territory that was to become Kenya in 1920. It emphasises the complex 
nature of African traditional frontiers and human patterns. There were no 
pure ethnic groups: the luo were an amalgam of luo, Bantu, Kalenjin, 
Maasai, Karamojong and Teso elements; and the Kipsigis comprised the Okiek, 
Maragoli, Gusii, Luo and Maasai. Each group was a dynamic and living unit 
whose continuity depended less on its purity or single origin than on its 
ability to accommodate and assimilate diverse elements. Most of the myths, 
legends, epics and rituals one comes across in stories of migration and 
settlement are meant to facilitate the process of integrating people whose 
origins are divers. We can thus draw useful lessons about nation-building 
from the pre-colonial history of Africa.

The drawing of colonial boundaries on a map froze the historical processes 
whereby dynamic interaction among the constituent elements had constantly 
produced either new syntheses or cultural differentiations. Individuals 
could no longer move to new areas nor could people form and reform. 
Consequently, cultural development was fossilised at a particular time in 
history, and from then on the anthropologists could only write about "the 
ethnographic present." Cultural and ethnic purists soon emerged among the 
local people to stress the uniqueness of each "tribe." They even accepted 
the concept of a "tribe" as an appropriate appellation.

As far as possible, the Africans were to be governed in their own language 
units, and district boundaries seldom cut across ethnic frontiers. The 
effect of this was profound, because it meant that, however much the 
institution of a "tribe" was transformed and standardised, the modern local 
government system emerged upon a 'tribal' and linguistic basis, in other 
words, ethnic exclusiveness was strengthened by the introduction of the new 
local government institutions. This was not building on the indigenous. 
Henceforth, the Africans themselves began to promote ethnic consciousness. 
Furthermore, new and bigger "tribes" such as the Abaluyia, the Kalenjin and 
the Mijikenda were invented during the colonial period by the Africans 
themselves to safeguard the interests and welfare of smaller units against 
possible domination by the larger groups. This kind of balancing action has 
tended to intensify ethnic chauvinism and the struggle for the capture of 
the post-colonial state.

With the support of such converts it was not difficult to introduce 
the "tribal" concept of local government upon which the colonial power 
built its subordinate mobilising agencies. District Councils soon 
became 'tribal' councils where matters pertaining to interests and welfare 
of particular ethnic groups were discussed and problems resolved. The 
Samburu, the Turkana, the Nandi, the Giriama, the Embu, Meru, Pokot had to 
have their councils. The trend continued into the post-independent period. 
New districts such as Tharaka-Nithi, Kuria, Elgon, Teso and Suba are being 
established to give those ethnic groups who still lack a geographical base, 
their districts. Any future restructuring of local government which ignores 
this 'tribal' factor is likely to fail.

Thus the decision of the post-colonial government of Kenya to retain the 
colonial district boundaries (which were not indigenous) is making it 
difficult, if not impossible, for Kenyans to live in multicultural and 
multiethnic societies (which are indigenous) that would encourage diversity 
and interaction, promote the co-existence of communities with multiple 
identities, protect minorities and emphasise intercultural dialogue and 
tolerance, in short, the ethnic enclaves created by the colonial boundaries 
and accepted by the post-colonial regimes are hindering the evolution of a 
democratic framework within which the culture of peace can be developed. 
This represents one of the major challenges facing the commission in its 
task of reviewing the Constitution, especially those sections dealing with 
Local Authorities.

Having accepted colonial borders, the nationalists had to deal with the 
concrete fact of "nations" consisting of many ethnic groups and 
nationalities. The nationalist movement saw recognition of Africa's social 
pluralism as succumbing to the "divide and rule" tactics of the 
colonialists and neo-colonialist forces that were bent on denying African 
independence. Its quest was for a "national consciousness" and inclusion, 
and any assertion of difference was seen as divisive and treasonable, in 
other words, in combating "tribalism," the nationalists denied ethnic 
identity and considered any political or economic claims based on these 
identities as diabolic as imperialism, if not worse.

In African countries where "Marxism" became the leading ideology such as 
Tanzania, class analysis simply rode roughshod over any other social 
cleavages. They argued that ethnic identities were "invented" by the 
colonialist or the petty bourgeoisie. They were part of "false 
consciousness." But "false consciousness," while subjective in its origin, 
assumes an objective historical esence that can only be dismissed at one's 
peril. while acknowledging the pluralism of African countries, carved as 
they were out of "artificial" boundaries, we should not avoid confronting 
this diversity squarely, largely due to fear that recognition of ethnic 
division would be misused by those bent on sowing the seeds of division. 
Nor should we accept arguments for authoritarian or centralised power based 
on the fear of the fissiparous pressures.

It is, however, interesting to note that while denying the salience of 
social pluralism and the ubiquity of ethnic identity, the nationalists in 
power often engage in the politics of "regional balance" that prides itself 
on ensuring that all ethnic groups are somehow officially recognised.
And so pluralism remains not only "a fact waiting for some institutions," 
as Kwame Antony Appiah has observed, "but also a reality awaiting 
theorisation" [Kwame Antony Appiah, 1992, My Father's House: Africa in the 
Philosophy of Culture, London: Methuen

But this is not a purely African problem. Whereas the international system 
is made up of about 180 nation-states, it is estimated that there are 8,000 
ethnic groups. Most countries are in fact polyethnic nations (or, in some 
cases, multinational states). The processes of social development and 
modernisation are based on the assumption that ethnic and cultural 
differences within nation-states' will tend to disappear. It is assumed 
that social cleavages and mobilisation focus around functional groups 
(social classes, occupational categories, urban-rural settings, political 
parties, and interest groups).

However, it is becoming increasingly recognised that many of the 
developmental "failures" of recent years cannot be traced merely to 
technical, financial, or economic shortcomings but must also be linked to 
the cultural and ethnic complexities involved in "nation-building." All 
over the world in recent years, there has been a resurgence of ethnic and 
cultural demands by minority or majority peoples who do not control power 
of the State, in Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, 
Liberia we have witnessed conflicts with a clear-cut ethnic dimension. In 
the Arab world and western Asia, religious and ethnic minorities such as 
the Druse, the Copts, the Baluchi, and the Berbers, attempt accommodation 
with the dominant culture. 

In western Europe, recent years have witnessed a renewed militancy by 
territorial and national minorities in States that considered such problems 
as having been solved long ago. The Bretons and Corsicans in France, the 
Scottish and Welsh in Britain; the Flemish and Walloons in Belgium; the 
Basques and Catalans in Spain. In the case of Britain, for example, 
successful reforms reviving and restructuring regional parliamentary 
systems have been introduced to accommodate Scottish and Welsh 
nationalisms. This represents an excellent example of building on the 
indigenous in constitution making.

In Africa today, there is a new wave of fascination with "identities," 
ethnic diversities and various forms of locations, in a recent book edited 
by Thomas Spear and Richard Waller entitled, Being Maasai: Ethnicity and 
identity in East Africa, the authors of these provocative essays make an 
important contribution to the continuing debate on the process of being, 
becoming and indeed transforming individual and corporate identities. The 
book is a study and interpretation of what it means to be a Maasai now and 
in the past. But even more important historiographically, it offers a 
serious analysis of the theoretical implications of ethnicity for 
understanding identity. The Maasai are seen as part of an historically 
dynamic process whereby "different economic groups, ethnically defined ... 
participated as a matter of course in a common interdependent regional 
economy and culture." Their concept of "being Maasai" is basically 
instrumentalist and the affirmation and negotiation of identities as well 
as the process of articulation, upholding and disputing moral values are 
seen here as integral to ethnicity. The book demonstrates that a sense of 
community has been central to Maasai identity, and that over time this has 
adapted and evolved according to needs and circumstances. For example, 
today Maasai identity is being increasingly contested and redefined under 
the influence of fundamental shifts in land tenure and the surrounding 
economy and in the transformation from communal to individual ownership and 
orientation. It represents a shift in Maasai priorities from that of 
struggle for control over cattle to one of control over land. There are 
also new and conflicting responses by Maasai to outsiders. The authors 
conclude that ethnicity is neither static nor necessarily strictly defined; 
it can be fashioned and transformed:

In a similar study, the role of the Mijikenda in the development of Mombasa 
from mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s has recently been examined 
exhaustively in a fascinating book, Mombasa, the Swahili and the Making of 
the Mijikenda written by Dr. Justin Willis. He focuses on the changing 
concepts of ethnicity and identity and gives an account of the continuing 
redefinition of being Swahili and the invention of Mijikenda identity in 
the 1930s as a dynamic response to the interventions of the colonial state 
and the perceptions of its local representatives. The study underscores an 
important point we should bear in mind in discussing our topic of building 
on the indigenous in constitution making, that is, that ethnic identity is 
constantly being negotiated and defined, re-negotiated and redefined, in 
everyday discourse.
From this brief survey, several lessons can be drawn which are relevant to 
the process of constitution making.

Firstly, it has warned us of the danger of imputing a direct relationship 
between modernisation and the weakening of ethnic identity. Modernisation 
theories had assumed that effective national integration will follow from a 
process of economic development. The spread of communication, increased 
urbanisation and industrialisation were supposed to lead to the 
assimilation of the inhabitants of all regions into the mainstream of 
national life, the transcending of ethnic parochialism, the transference of 
their loyalties to the State and their eventual fusion into a homogenous 
nation. That was the theory, and it did not imply building on the 

Today, we know that modernisation, in itself, is not a sufficient condition 
for breaking down ethnic identities, if anything, there is sufficient 
evidence to suggest that in some cases it leads to a strengthening rather 
than a weakening of ethnic identification. Part of the reason is that often 
certain regions perceive that their natural resources are being exploited 
by a dominant political centre for the benefit of the latter. The Shaba 
province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Cabinda enclave in Angola 
and Southern Sudan have charged the central government of engaging in 
discriminatory redistribution. This is one side of the political economy of 
dissident sub-nationalism. On the other side, are cases where 
underprivileged regions feel that a state controlled by a "dominant other" 
is paying too little attention, in economic terms, to the regions. The Luo 
of Kenya, for example, often complain that their region has been 
marginalised economically since independence. Hence, given the unequal 
effects of the modernisation process, ethnic identity may actually be 
accentuated, resulting in the gradual development of feelings of dissent 

The second set of lessons that may be drawn from recent international 
events concerns the limitations of the consociational approach to the 
problem of multi-ethnic societies. The theory of consociationalism assumes 
that in societies that are deeply divided along ethnic lines such as Kenya, 
one should accept these realities as givens. The champions of 
consociational-type analyses or primordial analyses therefore advocate 
constitutional solutions founded on the premise that ethnic groups form the 
basis of social organisation and that their conflicting interests needs to 
be formally balanced, in order to preserve the territorial unity of the 
State, the constitutional entrenchment of power-sharing arrangements 
between the various ethnic groups is advocated. Majority rule is excluded 
in such an arrangement, because it is interpreted as a dominant ethnic 
group rule, which would result in discrimination, real or perceived, 
against other groups.

Ethnic diversity, of course, has serious implications for democratic 
theory. One of the problems is how to combine majority rule with minority 
rights in a plural society. There are potential tendencies towards 
domination among majority groups in society. Ethnic minorities, for 
example, tend to be permanent minorities and the ruling groups tend to be 
permanent majorities. Simple majoritarianism often works against the rights 
of minorities unless they are specifically safeguarded by devises such as 
proportional representation, which South Africa adopted, and constitutional 
provisions such as the right to veto on matters deemed to be of vital 
interest to these groups.

The principle of consociation may also be expressed in specific 
arrangements governing relations between central government and States, or 
regions, or provinces or cantons, often taking the form of loose federal 
arrangements or confederation, for example, Switzerland, Canada, ex-
Yugoslavia and Lebanon.

The most serious problem with consociationalism is that it elevates 
ethnicity to the status of the primary organising principle of political 
life for a society. Political science literature suggests that individuals 
who have loyalties to a variety of different groups will not develop 
a "total" commitment to any particular one, and will therefore have a 
personal stake in sustaining an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and 
cooperativeness. For a democracy to work, therefore, the system must allow 
cross-cutting factional loyalties. Pluralism enhances democracy where a 
society is seen as having a high level of integration and consensus among 
an array of ethnic, economic, and cultural groups, if members of society 
have multiple, countervailing, group affiliations, these are likely to 
restrain the intensity of conflict, to channel it through legitimate 
processes and to diffuse a set of norms and values.

Hence, a constitutional dispensation which depends on ethnic boundaries is 
poorly placed to take account of ethnic fluidity or complex, multiple 
identities in which individuals often choose to locate themselves. 
Moreover, by giving ethnicity a direct and elevated constitutional 
expression, the risk of one group trying to destroy another is 
significantly increased should the fragile basis of cohesion become unstuck.

Furthermore, the question of who defines whom, and the power relations 
involved in the process, is of crucial importance in the process of ethnic 
ascription. Who is to decide whether the Basuba are not Luo? Primordialists 
tend to use the word ethnic as a means of establishing difference or 
exclusivity. In which case, for consociationalism to work, ethnic groups 
will have to be statutorily defined. But if we understand ethnicity as a 
malleable, historically conditioned process, which we should, and reject 
its use in categorical terms that approximate to race or population as not 
indigenous, we may be in a position to advance our understanding of 
Africa's complex societies, in addition, loyalty to one's ethnic group is 
not necessarily incompatible with loyalty to the State one finds oneself in.

Also, there is the problem of wealth accumulation and the control of 
political power in a highly diversified society with deep social cleavages. 
The tendency in such a situation is for groups to attempt to control the 
existing state or to secede. This is particularly so in Africa where, 
regardless of ideology, the State has been the primary channel for the 
accumulation of wealth. The ramifications of this arrangement for 
ethnicity, nationalism and democracy are serious. As 
Elliot Abrams emphasised:

"The essential fact is that when the government assumes such extensive 
power and control over the economic life of a Society, control of the State 
becomes the sole means of economic and social advance. This is almost 
guaranteed to exacerbate ethnic, religious, and tribal tensions. When the 
State decides where all significant investments will be made and allocates 
the wealth, then the talent, initiative, and enterprise get channelled into 
a fight for political power.""[Elliot Abrams, ""Pluralism and Democracy," 
in Dov Ronen (ed.) Democracy and Pluralism in a^ Africa, Kent: Boulder, 
c.o. and sevenoaks, 1986, p. 631.

In such a situation, political power is often sought for the material 
advantage it promises and there is therefore an intense struggle amongst 
various segments of society to control and exploit offices of the State, it 
is therefore essential that if there is to be an orderly democratic contest 
of factions, a reasonable distance between the State and the means of 
accumulation must be established. As Francois Bayart has contended:

"Where there is greater distance between accumulation and power, there 
develops autonomous indigenous business classes distinct from the 
bureaucracy and capable of strengthening civil society..... Elsewhere, on 
the other hand, the State is in total control of channels of accumulation 
and either uses them for patronage and political manna or simply 
appropriates them." [Jean-Francois Bayart, "Civil society in Africa," in 
Patrick Chabal (ed) Political Domination in Africa: Reflections on the 
Limits of Power. Cambridge, 1986, p. 1161.

In conclusion, I would like to state the following: There have been 
alternative approaches to the question of ethnicity and constitution 
making. One approach has been to draw up constitutions which recognise 
individuals and not communities and which aim at the establishment of 
a 'civic nation' wherein the notion of the rights and duties of citizens 
within a liberal democracy play the unifying role normally assigned to 
national myths - such as the "melting pot" or a nation with "manifest 
destiny" found in the U.S.A. The advocates of this approach argue that the 
normal safeguards of democracy are sufficient protection for minorities - 
ethnic, cultural, religious or economic. Countries which have adopted this 
approach - and Kenya is one of them - have not always succeeded in allaying 
the fears of minorities, in such situations, minorities have often felt 
that no redress is possible through the constitution and have often been 
drawn into politics of protest or even violence as is exemplified in the 
case of the Southern Sudanese, Sri Lanka Tamils, Turkish Kurds, Indian 
Sikhs and Tibetans. Majoritarian democracy, in such cases, aggravate rather 
than mitigate ethnic consciousness.

The second approach is where the constitution is built around communal 
entities, proceeds on the assumption that what ethnic minorities need is 
not only political protection but power-sharing and participation in 
decision-making. The federal principle is often invoked to achieve this 
objective. But this approach is never popular with the leaders of the 
majority group who see it as setting the stage for the fragmentation of the 
State. In Kenya and Ghana, for instance, the first constitutional 
amendments were aimed at dismantling the regional structure adopted at 
independence. Now that the constitution of Kenya is being revised, it might 
be a good idea to revisit this approach and see whether there are any 
lessons of history we can learn from our adoption of the first approach.

In Africa, it was assumed for a long time that ethnicity could be contained 
politically through the one-party state. It was argued that ethnic parties 
tend to be rigid; and whereas 'normal' parties compete by trying to cover 
the middle Voter, and so tend to converge, ethnic parties compete for the 
extremists in their own communities. Attempt; were therefore made to 
regulate the formation and conduct of politics parties, in some countries, 
it was stipulated that in order to qualify for registration, a political 
party had to demonstrate that it had the support in several areas of the 
country, such rules were designed to encourage parties to have a national 
outlook, presidential candidates were required to have at least 25 per cent 
of voters in the majority of the regions. The 1992 Presidential Election 
Act in Kenya, for example, was meant to achieve this. I hope that in the 
course of reviewing our Constitution, we would not lose sight of the 
objectives of such legislation.

But in the majority of African countries, it was argued that since 
political activity in new, plural states was inherently divisive, their 
fragmentation can only be prevented by restricting political activity to 
one party. In other words, the one-party state was justified as a much 
better mechanism for accommodating diverse ethnic claims, it was further 
stressed that it enables each community to share in power and therefore 
offers its own version of democracy more suited to the African condition. 
This was the one party version articulated by Julius Nyerere and in some 
sense attempted in Tanzania. It eventually tripped on the inherent 
contradictions of "one party participatory democracy." The great source of 
incoherence arose from the failure to reconcile what were obviously 
socially pluralistic arrangements in terms of class and ethnicity, with 
political and economic arrangements that were monolithic and highly 

in short, no sooner had the African nationalists come to power than they 
found reason to discard the liberal democratic institutions that they had 
fought for and that had eventually brought them to power. The arguments 
given ranged from the need for strong government and unity, both 'nation-
building' and development, to the cultural inappropriateness of Western 
institutions to African conditions.

In Uganda, where political party activities have been outlawed since 1986, 
Yoweri Museveni is still maintaining that a "no-party (read one-party) 
system is more suitable to the African environment. The Uganda constitution 
of 1995 allows no political party activities because they would bring 
political polarisation. For political parties to function properly, there 
must be social classes and Ugandans, according to Museveni, are of one 
class, peasants. [Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Sowing of the Mustard Seed, 
London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1997].

On 10 July, 1997, the Uganda parliament passed a bill making the National 
Resistance Movement the sole political party of Uganda, "what is crucial 
for Uganda now," according to Museveni, "is for us to have a system that 
ensures democratic participation until such time as we get, through 
economic development, especially industrialisation, the crystallisation of 
socio-economic groups upon which we can then base healthy political 
parties." [Ibid p. 1951. Like the former advocates of the one-party state, 
Museveni claims to be building Uganda State on the indigenous. But the 
truth of the matter is that the aim is to consolidate power in the hands of 
one group indefinitely at the expense of those who have refused to join the 
movement. It is also a violation of the constitution as it violates the 
fundamental freedoms of association and assembly.

This brings me to the question of our search for a "usable past." During 
the struggle for independence, the nationalists such as Nyerere, Kenyatta, 
Senghor, Nkrumah, sought historical and cultural anchors - or a usable 
past - for the sustenance of the new nation-states. And in the early years 
of independence there was a genuine attempt to find new expressions for 
what was happening, or expected to be deified, in post-colonial Africa. 
African scholars, including myself, shared this quest, in a sense, it was 
an attempt to build on the indigenous. However, we soon discovered that 
the "usable" pasts we had sought to construct for our leaders could easily 
be turned into "abusable pasts" in the hands of a growing self-serving 
political class.

One of the problems we faced was whether our basic research really 
addressed the key issues and whether, when it borrowed concepts, it was 
sufficiently sensitive to the specificities of our conditions. The analysis 
of Africa was (and still is) dominated by others whose purposes for 
studying us were driven by their own concerns. African scholars became 
slaves to the intellectual fads of the West. As Kwesi Prah has written:

"For us who ..... have the benefit of middle age and hindsight, we 
recognise that we have in our formation been subjected to successive 
intellectual fashions born in the west. The intellectual fads have affected 
successive generations of African intellectuals and shaped their thinking 
on Africa and the World, but have hardly provided viable inspirational or 
ideological sources for transformation which translate into the betterment 
of the quality of life of African humanity." Kwesi Prah, 1998, Beyond the 
Colour Line, p. 1601.

Some commentators have suggested that African intellectuals are no more 
than the "informed native guide," the comprador in cultural commodities. 
Kwame Antony Appiah maintains that:
"Postcoloniality is the condition of what we may ungenerously call a 
comprador intelligentsia: of a relatively small, western-style, western-
trained group of writers and thinkers, who mediate the trade in cultural 
commodities of world capitalism in the periphery, in the West they are 
known through the Africa they offer; their compatriots know them both 
through the West they present to Africa and through an Africa they have 
invented for the world, for each other and for Africa." Kwame Antony 
Appiah, 1992: My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, 
London: Methuen, p. 2401.

As a comprador intelligentsia, we import all our concepts, paradigms and 
values. This is intellectual mitumbaism. The Africa we have invented for 
the world is not authentic, and whatever institutional construction 
processes we engage in cannot be regarded as building on the indigenous.

Finally, building on the indigenous should not imply isolationism. 
Globalisation, which refers to both the actual processes driven by trade, 
finance and technology and the ideological expressions of such processes, 
is already proving to be a major challenge to the nation-building project. 
Africans should be skeptical about processes of integration of their 
countries into the world market, whether in earlier forms of neo-
colonialism, trans-nationalisation or inter-nationalisation or its new 
guise of globalisation. Quests by Africans for "endogenous" or "self-
reliance" or "auto centric" development have been dismissed by the 
developed countries as unrealistic sloganeering, either as implying a 
complete break with globalisation or a return to some romantic past of 
traditional institutions or knowledge. 

Our attempts to create autonomous spaces for reflection have been dismissed 
as insular and provincial, and ultimately doomed to fail due to the 
ineluctable forces of globalisation. And there is already a new elite in 
Africa that has emerged in the wake of liberalisation and privatisation 
that see globalisation as ushering in a new era of freedom - unlimited 
access to information and knowledge, multiple identities and infinite range 
of choices, - who are already enjoying the fruits of this new order. They 
see globalisation as a welcome wind that will sweep away autocratic regimes 
and their restrictive and suffocating order which they have imposed on 

If globalisation is eroding the State, it is also unleashing powerful 
localisms that nationalism had so desperately sought to tame. To be able to 
resist the powerful forces of globalisation, African countries will have to 
be individually and collectively socially coherent, it is this social; 
cohesion that will determine and firm up the internal strategic" necessary 
to make politically viable and legitimate whatever countries choose. 
Failure to come up with adequate internal responses to the external 
challenges will merely expose African countries to misery.

Both internal institutional and political weaknesses (and that why we need 
a new constitution to correct these) and the particular way Africa is being 
integrated into the global system are likely to lead to this undesirable 
outcome. The internal problems are the result on the one hand of internal 
inconsistencies and conflicts and what Africa themselves describe 
as "betrayal" by the leaders of the promise independence; and on the other 
of the reverberations of foreign pressures on domestic politics which may 
not only alter the preferences or ideologies of key actors but also 
influence the social composition and strength of political coalitions.

Perhaps the most insidious effect of "global talk" has been at the 
ideological level where it has tended to denigrade national ideologies of 
social change and to underrate social policy. More specifically, the 
ideology has tended to suggest that notions of equity and social justice 
are either old fashioned and "ideological" or simply doomed to be swept 
aside by the force of globalisation in this sense, globalisation has either 
provided an excuse for those who would want to set aside the agenda for 
equity and justice, or has served to demoralise or disarm those who have 
sought to use national policies to address these issues, as these might 
scare "markets."

True, an attempt to avoid globalisation can easily lead to xenophobia, 
fundamentalism or nativism. On the other hand, an uncritical embrace of 
globalisation is bound to result into a blind celebration of 
the "universal." Africa must avoid both approaches.

The fate of Africa, in my view, lies in a collective rethinking of the 
continent's unfulfilled humanistic tasks in the light of what has 
transpired, and the concrete situation today; so as to recast them into 
cornerstones of social justice, solidarity and equality and to enable the 
continent to reconnect with the rest of the world in a mutually beneficial 
way. We need many more creative institutional designs - and this where a 
new Constitution becomes relevant - for Kenya respond to the peculiarities 
of Africa's social pluralism, we may, in the process, have to rethink the 
attributes of a nation-state in Africa - in terms of a cultural basis and 
territorial exclusivity - in order to give greater authority to regional 
arrangements and to strengthen regional self-policing. The turn away from 
the market frenzy brings us back to the question of the state and 
development. The challenge for Africa is to establish developmental states 
that are firmly and democratically embedded in their own societies and that 
are competent to engage the world and respond to the exigencies of the 
emerging global order. And a new Kenya Constitution should aim at 
facilitating this process.